By Tony Burton

Harper Paperbacks
$6.50 ($8.50 Cdn)

Reviewed by Therese Greenwood

While the term "mystery novel" encompasses a broad genre of fiction, there is no category to embrace The Department Of Correction. This gory novel has none of the classic elements of the genre: there is no whodunnit, the whydunnit is obvious, and the "twist" ending is both implausible and unsophisticated. Perhaps, given its ruthless violence, the book might be best labeled a "thriller."

Beginning with a brutal shooting, the book's body count rises steadily with rape, arson, and kidnapping thrown in to give variety to the relentless killings. The rationale for this escalating violence is not new. Men victimized by a vicious, unjust system exact a bloody vengeance against those who done them wrong, a scenario weve seen in such Hollywood set pieces as the Clint Eastwood movie High Plains Drifter. However, in this plot, vengeance does not equal justice. Those being punished never see the error of their ways, the town which has colluded in the wickedness never faces the horror of its complicity, and the sins of the fathers do not pay a lasting visit to tainted offspring. Eventually, rather than propelling the action and bringing about a sense of retribution, the violence gets boring.

Even more boring are the descriptions of the women who cant wait to bed the self-indulgent male characters: "He had stripped and climbed up the steps when the toilet flushed and Lady Jane reemerged, letting her robe fall to the floor as she advanced. He reached to turn off the lamp on his side of the bed. 'Leave it on, darling,' she said. 'I like to see what Im doing.' "

If only wed all been kept in the dark.

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